There are only three more Saturdays of Group 1 racing in Melbourne, before the focus shifts to the “Championships” in Sydney (as they call their autumn racing carnival).
This coming Saturday, Caulfield Racecourse hosts the 2016 Blue Diamond Stakes, which is supported by two other classy Group 1 races for older gallopers – the 1400 metres Futurity Stakes and the Oakleigh Plate, a sprint over 1100 metres. There are also a number of Group 2 races on the program.
As usual, it’s hard to predict the Blue Diamond winner, as it tends to be a messy race with 16 two year old contenders in the field. This year there are nine colts/geldings and seven fillies contesting the race. Mick Price trained colts Extreme Choice and Flying Artie are the top picks. Unfortunately they’ve both drawn wide gates which gives other hopefuls a chance, such as Hell Of An Effort, Star Turn and fillies Samara Dancer and Concealer, to name a few of the better performed runners.
The Blue Diamond Stakes is scheduled as Race 7 at the latter end of the afternoon, so I’m going to take my time getting to the course, most probably just before Race 3 the Angus Armanesco Stakes, a Group 2 race for three year old fillies over 1400 metres.
Pasadena Girl is top weight. She hasn’t been seen since spring, where she was slightly disappointing. But then again, she had the misfortune to encounter superior fillies Stay With Me and/or Jameka in most of the races she contested. She has a good chance of winning the Armanesco Stakes if she can hold out against the likes of Egypt, who ran second to Don’t Doubt Mama last week in the Vanity Stakes, or Mossin’ Around and Cana who ran second and third to smart New Zealand Filly Risque in the Kevin Hayes Stakes.
Race 4, the Caulfield Autumn Classic is another Group 2 race for three year olds, this time run over 1800 metres.
Mahuta who has won his last 7 races and has been racing since October 2015 with very little break in between, is still the top chance in the Autumn Classic if he can run the distance. Others who might threaten are Flying Light, Ayers Rock (who has won over 1800 metres) Hardern and Tally.
The Group 2 Peter Young Stakes is also run over 1800 metres and is a standard weight for age race for older runners. Last year it was won by Mourinho who is again in the field, along with old stalwarts Fawkner and Happy Trails. Geelong Cup winner Almoonqith is also in the field along with Group 1 winning mares Rising Romance and Fenway.
The first scheduled of the Group 1 races is the Futurity Stakes, run over 1400 metres. Orr Stakes heroine Suavito won this race last year, and has a good chance of winning it a second time, facing the same horses she beat in the Orr Stakes – Turn Me Loose, Hucklebuck, Rebel Dane, Boban, Stratum Star, Trust In A Gust, Entirely Platinum - with the added talents of Politeness and Scissor Kick, thrown in for good measure.
It looks a ripper race as Suavito will most certainly be challenged by several of the above runners.
The Oakleigh Plate is the final Group 1 race of the day, scheduled after the Blue Diamond Stakes. This year’s edition has attracted a huge field of 18 runners. I’m delighted to see Canberra sprinter Fell Swoop is part of the field, having his toughest test to date. He’s up against some smart ones in Bounding, Gregers, Heatherly, Headwater and Keen Array. Heatherly will most likely start as favourite after her stunning five & a half length win in the Rubiton Stakes at her last start caught everyone’s eye.
Sydney racing is at Randwick and the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600 metres) is the feature race. Star mare Winx is part of the field and will most likely win it, the bulk of the field being stayers resuming. It’s good to see that Caulfield Cup winner Mongolian Khan is part of the field. He was very sick with a colic attack which prevented him contesting the Melbourne Cup, but has recovered well by all accounts.